If you have a fuse box in your house that looks anything like the picture to the left, I would recommend you have it upgraded to a breaker box.
There are several reasons I say this:
1.It is old.
2.I can almost guarantee it is overloaded. Any house nowadays requires more circuits than the old fuses boxes hold.
3.It will increase your resale value.
4.Some homeowners insurance companies raise your rate, or even cancel your policy,
if you have one. (it just happened to a customer of mine recently)
5.They are a known fire hazard, because people oversize the fuses, and the wires can get very hot, without blowing the fuse.
6.It is somewhat difficult to tell if a fuse is blown, compared to a breaker.
7.There is no room for new circuits, whereas a new panel could have 42 spots
(yours likely has less than 12).
8.When a breaker trips, you don't need to run out to the store and buy a new one.
9.Looking at the face of the fuse panel, you can not tell what is the proper fuse size. The cover needs to be removed to determine wire size.
10.Changing fuses can occasionally be hazardous. I have been shocked when inserting a fuse, because it was wired backwards.
AFCI breakers are the latest and greatest in circuit protection. They are designed to protect your house wiring against a variety of faults, and help prevent fires. The receptacles (outlets) are the same but work for just that outlet or a portion of the circuit. These receptacles look just like GFCI receptacles.
Arcing faults can be caused by damaged, or improperly installed wiring. These faults can get very hot, and are a common source of house fires. Driving a nail or screw into a wire, rodents, loose wire nuts,or even age can cause a wire to fail.
These breakers will not reset, until the fault goes away, or the wire is repaired.
If it keeps tripping, call a qualified electrician to locate the problem.
You can test an Arc Fault breaker by hitting the button. It should pop open the breaker. Then you turn it all the way off, and then back on again.
If you find an Arc fault breaker that is tripped in your house, first unplug everything om that circuit, then try to reset it. If it resets, then it could be a faulty cord or device that is plugged into it. If it still trips then call an electrician, because you may have a serious problem.
GFCI receptacles are designed to protect people from getting shocked. They contain sensors that measure the balance between the hot and the neutral Connections. To put it simply, it senses that there is current going somewhere it shouldn't. For example, through you! Ouch!
It is so sensitive that it will open in a few hundredths of a second, on very low fault levels. The standard fault sensitivity is set at a level that a small child can survive.
The most common faults are caused when water is present, most electrical devices that get wet could possibly cause a shock, and way very well not trip a standard circuit breaker.
One of the great things about GFCIs is that they can protect a string of receptacles. So one device could protect all of the plugs in your garage, for example.
They are required in kitchens,bathrooms, unfinished basements, within 6 feet of any basin, exteriors, and garages. The national electrical code does not require you to replace all of your plugs, in these locations, unless the device is being changed for a different reason. Personally, I recommend changing them anyway, for safety reasons.
Another use of GFCIs is to allow two prong ungrounded plugs to legally be replaced with a three prong receptacle. This is your only option if the circuit is ungrounded, and you need three prong plugs, aside from rewiring the circuit.
There are also GFCI breakers that can go in your breaker box, these cost $50 dollars and up, compared to GFCI receptacles which vary from $25 and up.
There are two buttons on the receptacles, one is the test button, which should pop when pressed, causing the plug to de-energize.
The second button is the reset button, which should turn the plug back on. If the button won't reset I recommend getting an electrician to check it out.
The plug itself could be failing, or they may be a fault that needs to be located. You can look for an obvious fault yourself first, such as an extension cord lying in a puddle.